“It is a fine seasoning for joy to think of those we love.” -Moliere
Holidays may be an awkward time for grievers. First holidays, especially, can be tough. There is no etiquette for how to handle the first year of special events without a loved one. Do we relish in memories of past holidays? Do we share memories with others? Will memories bring sadness? If I am happy, am I disrespecting my lost loved one?
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“Christmas is a holiday the persecutes the lonely, the frayed, and the rejected.”-Jimmy Cannon
The Christmas season is upon us. It is a bittersweet time for grievers. First Christmases without a loved one are difficult, of course. But it’s the second, third, and rest of the Christmases without your loved one that may be the saddest. The first year, you have a focus: making it through. The next, you think you’ve done it once, how hard can the second time be? And you let down your guard, and the reminder of a shortened gift list surprises you. Or you come upon a decoration, stocking, or other item that is no longer used and sadness creeps forth.
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“Take the high road. No matter how much strife, and consternation, frustration and anger you may be confronted with–don’t go to that level.” -Tim Gunn
One of the unexpected challenges of grieving (for me at least) was dealing with grief supporters who, instead of supporting my path, used their time to put down my choices and my grieving process. I tried to take the high road–but I didn’t always succeed. Exhaustion, the need to be understood, and shear shock got in the way. I responded. I reacted. I should have left it alone.
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“There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.”-O. Henry
Thanksgiving 2020 is bittersweet. We are isolating. Many of us have lost loved ones. Many may be spending the day alone because of the pandemic. Many Americans are out of work or have lost family businesses because of COVID shutdowns. Many families are struggling to put food on their tables. We are an intensely divided nation struggling to reconcile and to survive. We may not see what we have to be grateful for.
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“Calamity is the test of integrity.”-Samuel Richardson
Nothing tests us like distress. The same distress we experience also tests those around us. Distress, struggle, trauma, death–they challenge our character, our honesty, our morality, our honor. Grievers must make difficult decisions and choose from options they don’t always like in order to make the best of the situation at hand. Sometimes those decisions are easy, and sometimes not. Sometimes those decisions have outside support from grief supporters, sometimes they don’t.
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“I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” -Sylvia Plath
In grief, especially in the early days, a chaotic whirlwind swoops in and creates emotional confusion and mental anguish. Though it fades over (a lot of) time, this whirlwind can return without warning, bringing its wake anxiety, stress, negativity, etc.
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“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”-belle hooks
It’s difficult to extend compassion to, or forgive, someone who has hurt you or people you know. Grieving should be an experience in which there is an abundance of compassion, love, understanding, and acceptance. However, because of our society’s “get over it” attitude and the tendency to believe vulnerability is a weakness, grieving can become a stressful experience when grief supporters aren’t understanding or empathetic.
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The day of my mother’s surgery, I went to a bookstore. I was seeking a book that could help her reframe how she viewed life. She hadn’t been taking great care of herself for a few years. She had stopped exercising (which she was never very enthusiastic about), she stopped eating as well as she needed to, she ignored signs that pointed to the need to see a doctor (like shortness of breath and leg pain), among other things. She claimed that she couldn’t do any of these things because she needed to prioritize my father and I. (I was never clear on exactly what we needed that got in the way of her taking care of herself. We were just more interesting and, I think, a good distraction from self-care.) I finally got her to see, the day before her surgery, that if she took better care of herself that was taking care of my father and I, because we needed her healthy and living.
Continue reading “Book Review: The Essential Wayne Dyer Collection (Wayne Dyer)”
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”-The Dalai Lama
When we think about what humans need to survive, we often reduce the list to the basic essentials: food, clothing, shelter, and water. Perhaps we can add an income with which to pay for these basics. What gets omitted is interesting: love and compassion.
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The following series of posts outline the traditional “stages” of grief as presented in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s On Death and Dying (1969). The stages are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. This post addresses denial.
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At some point in our education about death and grief, we may have heard of the five stages of grieving. As a society we have mistakenly developed a view of the bereavement experience as a sort of numbered pathway that has a distinct beginning and end. However, bereavement professionals have pointed out our flawed application over time. What are these five stages of grief?
Continue reading “Grief 101: The Five Stages of Grief…”